If you have any interest in Mad Max, Borderlands, or post-apocalyptic fiction you should go watch Mad Max: Fury Road. It is beautiful and vicious, and powerful in its simplicity and imagery.
The identity politics discussion that has cropped up around the movie is mostly foolish. The female characters in the movie are varied, and the main arc centers around the female characters, but Mad max stories have always been wanderers tales, and wanderers butt in on the stories of others. People who do not enjoy this movie because it is `too feminist’ are either missing the point or their politics are cripplingly strong.
So yeah, that little caveat aside, watch the movie if it even vaguely interests you.
Charlize Theron is stellar in this movie and Tom Hardy makes a great Mad Max.
[Here be Spoilers]
Now, here are the five things that I truly love about the movie, that I think can be used in genre fiction, specifically fantasy stories.
- The Road Home (And Back): The main action in Fury Road centers around Furiosa, Max, and several other characters escaping from Immortan Joe’s citadel. Max is just trying to survive. Furiosa is trying to get back to the home that she was stolen from. The wives are seeking freedom for themselves and their children. They run and run, eventually reaching their destination, only to discover that the hope of escape was a false one. At that point most of them decide to keep running, but pragmatic Max suggests that instead the real home that they are looking for is the citadel that they are fleeing, and that they are now strong enough to take it. This simple arc makes for excellent storytelling as we complete the arc with the same characters returning home triumphant, defeating the foes that they initially feared by showing that they have gained the wisdom and the strength to defeat them. In essence it is a tale of overcoming fear and despair.
- The Nasty Old Men: The villains of Fury Road are the rulers of three towns. Immortan Joe controls the water and food. He dresses up like he belongs in a deranged rock video, hiding his corruption under a breathing mask and plastic carapace. The mayor of gas town dresses like a business man, but his suit cannot hide the gout or his horrific obesity. The leader of the bullet factory is dressed with bits of military, police, and justice uniforms. These old men are the representatives of the forces that destroyed the world to begin with, and their power has corrupted their physical bodies. Nonetheless they seem wonderfully dangerous and wonderfully deranged as they send their younger counterparts out to die. You don’t get old in the wasteland by being weak.
- The Wonderful Old Women: The counterparts to the old men are the old women that await Furiosa, Max, and their group when they fail to find the green place that Furiosa seeks. They are the remnants of a failed colony who have survived in the wastes and kept hope alive. Old women with faces like leather and survivors skills they are the living embodiment of the will to carry on after live has delivered a string of failures. It is fun to see these saintly old crones kicking ass and imparting wisdom on the way to overthrow Immortan Joe.
- The Cannibalization of a Lost World: This has always been a strong point of the Mad Max series, but twenty years and exposure to the sources that it has inspired (I see lovely references Borderlands and 40K Orks in this movie) has only sharpened how the remnants of the old world are used. I love the bits of other cars welded onto the war-rig, for example.
- When Everything Fails, Life is What Matters: Water, seeds, and children, the things of new life are what really matter in the narrative of Fury Road. After the apocalypse things that most people need and cherish become rare, and we learn to appreciate them all the more by imagining their loss.